Archive for Jack Dragna

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Virginia Hill – Part Four

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, Mexico, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

On June 10, 1947, Hill was summoned by the mob to fly to Chicago. They didn’t tell her the reason, but Hill, being a seasoned mob moll, figured it must have something to do with Bugsy Siegel. Once in Chicago, Hill was ordered to fly straight to France. If Siegel asked any questions, she was to tell him she was going to France to buy expensive wine for the Flamingo, which she had done in the past.

In France, Hill phoned Siegel about her “plans.” It’s not clear if Siegel bought her explanation or not, but he pleaded with Hill to come back to California and stay with him at her home in Beverly Hills. Hill refused, knowing if she was right about Siegel’s eminent demise, she might get caught in the crossfire. Hill was too experienced a mob associate to risk her life for a man who maybe she loved and maybe she didn’t love. Besides, with Siegel gone, Hill figured she’d get more opportunities to make money with the mob. What Hill didn’t know was that the mob didn’t trust her either, but that they figured Hill could be useful to them in the future, even if only for bedtime escapades with the top mobsters she had previously sexually serviced.

On the night of June 20, 1947, a sharpshooter named Frank Carranzo held an army carbine and waited patiently outside the back window of 810 N. Linden Drive in Beverly Hills, a house rented by Hill that once belonged to silent movie star Rudolph Valentino. Carranzo had been laying down on his stomach military style for hours waiting for his prey.

In the upstairs bedrooms of the house was Hill’s brother Chick, bedding down Hill’s secretary Jeri Mason. Also upstairs was a West Coast gangster named Allen Smiley.

Around 10:30 pm, Siegel, wearing a brown pinstriped three-piece suit, turned the key in the lock of the front door. He slipped into the house and sauntered into the living room. Siegel switched on the living room lights and slouched comfortably on the couch; his left profile facing the sniper’s window. He picked up a copy of the local newspaper, and before he could turn a single page, Carranzo fired four .30-06 caliber bullets into Siegel’s body. The first bullet hit Siegel in the left side of the face. The second bullet shattered Siegel’s nose, and the other two bullets broke his ribs and tore apart his lungs. The gangster died instantly.

 At exactly 11:00 A.M., Jack Dragna got a call from Carranzo, who said, “The insect was killed.” Without saying another word, Carranzo hung up the phone.

The Los Angeles’ Coroner’s Report (#37448) stated the cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage. His death certificate (Registrar’s #816192) stated the cause of death was “homicide- gunshot wounds to the head.”

Even though Siegel’s death made the front page of all the newspapers, the police hardly cared a famous gangster was hit in their jurisdiction

One hardened flatfoot told the nationwide press, “When you stick your finger into a buzz saw you can hardly tell which tooth of the saw hit it. This rat, Siegel, didn’t have a friend in the world outside of a couple of movie stars. He double crossed everybody in the narcotics rackets, not to mention bookmaking and slot machines.

“Who killed him? Well, you might say he killed himself – by degrees. The process started

in New York when he got to be a big shot in a West Side mob. He had a gang that would

break the arm of a man they had never seen for as little as $10; kill a stranger for $50.

“Siegel was the boss, but he wasn’t content to give orders and collect the fee. He had to see the victim suffer, sometimes die. He liked to do the job himself. That’s how he got the name of ‘Bugsy.’ Other mobsters said he was crazy to take such chances, but Siegel seemed to delight in hurting people—as long as he couldn’t get hurt in the process.

“He had a hand in the vice racket and, as a lad, he stole from blind men’s cups. Any one of a thousand persons had a reason for killing him and would have if they could. But if you really want some information, talk to Virginia Hill.”

Yet, certain people saw a softer and kinder side of the man known as “Bugsy.”

Lou Wiener Jr., Siegel’s Las Vegas attorney, told the press, “When Siegel got killed you wouldn’t believe how many employees of the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund broke down in tears  (Siegel gave liberally to this fund- with stolen money, of course). He was very generous with the help and very well-liked. He was good to people. He was good to me and my wife.”

Siegel was so well-liked, only five blood relatives attended his  funeral. All his mob associates, some of whom had ordered his death, gave Siegel the ultimate insult – they ignored his death.      

Within minutes of Siegel’s demise, the mob took over the Flamingo’s operation. Moe Sedway, Gus Greenbaum, and a  mob associate named Morris Rosen, stormed into the Flamingo and announced to everyone that they were the new bosses. Rosen assembled a group of investors, including Sedway, Greenbaum, and Meyer Lansky, to raise $3.9 million to buy the property from Siegel’s Nevada Projects Corporation.        

The resort was renamed “The Fabulous Flamingo” and the hotel’s gaming license was

issued to Sanford Adler, who served as operator and “front man” for the mobsters/investors until 1948, when Greenbaum took over the show. With Greenbaum in charge and Siegel not there to skim the profits,  and the Fabulous Flamingo showed a profit of $4 million in Greenbaum’s first year as boss.

To add insult to injury, when it was renovated in 1993, the Fabulous Flamingo’s leadership, now the Hilton Corporation, tore down Siegel’s private suite near the pool. In 1997, the Flamingo celebrated its 50th anniversary and not a word was mentioned about Siegel. It was as if Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel had never existed.

A spokesman for the hotel explained to the press, “The ‘Bugsy’ image was not something that was particularly endearing to the Flamingo or Hilton. This was not George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. We’re talking about a robber, rapist, and murderer. Those are not endearing qualities.”


Joe Bruno on the Mob – Virginia Hill – Part 2

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, Drugs, Gangs, gangsters, Italian Americans, labor unions, mafia, Mexico, mobs, Mobsters, murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

In July 1938, the Chicago Outfit sent Hill, along with her brother Chick, to Mexico to make drug connections for future dealings. No drugs were obtained, but Hill reported to her superiors that her contacts were secure and were waiting for the word, and for the money, to complete the drug transactions that would make her bosses very rich.

While waiting for the word from up top about the Mexican caper, Hill and her brother rented an apartment in the Garden of Allah on Havenhurst Street. Hill passed the time drinking and dancing at the local hotspots, including the Trocadero, the Mocambo, and the Brown Derby. During her regular jaunts, Hill met Hollywood heartthrob Errol Flynn, who was known to hit from both sides of the plate. Flynn liked what he saw in Hill, and soon they were an item – albeit for a very short time (the oft-used phrase “In Like Flynn” – was coined for Flynn’s sexual escapades).

One night, the odd couple got so soused in the Brown Derby, Hill and Flynn wound up in a drunken brawl with another couple, which Hill allegedly started by socking a young lady who looked at Hill, as far as Hill was concerned, not a in proper way.

In late 1938, after she got the word from her bosses in the Chicago Outfit, Hill traveled back to Mexico to complete her drug transactions. Hill was not only a good-looker out for a good time, but the Outfit discovered she was a good earner to boot. And mob bosses love nothing better than having someone in their employ sending substantial amounts of cash up the ladder and into their deep pockets.

Now flush with dough, Hill decided to do a little man-hunting in Brownsville, TX. In December of 1938, Hill hit a few local dives and soon she was seen by Federal agents in the company of Carlos “Miguelito” Valdez. Hill and Valdez went at it hot and heavy for a while, but when Hill found out Valdez was basically broke and looking for a woman to support him, she dropped him like a bad habit.

Hill exited Texas and made her way to Alabama. There she met (in a bar of course) Osgood Griffin, a 19-year-old football player at the University of Alabama. Griffin’s family was one of the richest in the state of Alabama and Hill saw dollar signs flittering in front of her face.

On the night they met, Hill seduced Griffin in her car. The young man was so enamored with Hill’s sexual capabilities, he proposed to her that very night. They soon married on January 13, 1939; one-way liaison where Hill could get her hands on some cold hard cash without having to do the mob’s dangerous work.

With the wedding ring still on her finger and the marriage license locked in a safe place, Hill left Griffin flat in days and traipsed back to Hollywood. There she hooked up with playboy Pasquale “Pat” Deciccio, whose ex-wife, actress Thelma Todd, had died in 1935 under suspicious circumstances.

Todd was the Depression Era “Queen of Comedy” and was known to her friends as “The Ice Cream Blond,” and “Hot Toddy.” However, Todd was a hopeless junkie and New York gangster, Lucky Luciano, a close associate of Bugsy Siegel’s, kept Todd constantly high on amphetamines in order to keep her under his control; or so he thought. By this time, Todd was divorced from Deciccio, but since Deciccio was pals with Luciano, the divorced couple spent considerable time together, at Luciano’s request, of course

Todd was the owner of “Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café” at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway, in Pacific Palisades, between Santa Monica and Malibu. Luciano’s plan was to convert the top floor of Todd’s joint into an illegal gambling palace. One night at the Brown Derby, with Deciccio present, Luciano laid out his plans to Todd.

The “Blond Bombshell” jumped to her feet and yelled, “Over my dead body!”

Luciano smiled, puffed on a cigarette, and said, “That can be arranged.”

Less than a week later, Todd was found dead in her car in the garage of her café. The official report was that she apparently fell asleep in her car and died from carbon monoxide poisoning which was spewing from the tailpipe of her Lincoln Phaeton convertible; top up, of course. There were unconfirmed rumors that she was last seen drunk in the company of Deciccio.

Deciccio and Hill had their short fling, and Deciccio was nice enough to introduce Hill to star actor George Raf,t who was known for his gangster parts and his gangster friends from his old neighborhood in New York City – Hell’s Kitchen. Through Raft, Hill reunited with Siegel and they stared going at it hot and heavy.

For pocket money, Hill rushed through a divorce from Griffin, and Siegel, a true homicidal manic and movie-star handsome, considered Hill his personal property. He called Hill his “Flamingo” (a slightly better nickname than “Tabby”), and even though they were not living together, Siegel and Hill were the talk of the town.

Unfortunately, neither one had the slightest intention of being faithful to the other.

In the fall of 1939, Hill took a leave of absence from Siegel to do a little drug work in Mexico for the Chicago Outfit. Siegel understood Hill was an important clog in the Outfit’s machinery, and besides, he had a few dolls on the side whom he wasn’t giving the attention they required. The ladies Siegel bedded while Hill was on the move included Wendy Barry, Marie McDonald, and Italian Countess Dorothy diFrasso.  Even though Siegel was busy keeping his broads happy, just to keep himself from getting rusty, he lusted to do a little killing for his pals on the East Coast.

Siegel got his wish, when in late 1939, on orders from New York City Jewish mob boss Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Siegel was ordered to arrange the demise of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, an old crony who was singing like a canary to the Feds. A mob rat told Lepke that Greenberg was hiding near Los Angeles, and since Siegel was in the area, Lepke figured Siegel was the perfect man to arrange the job.

Lepke ordered Siegel to put together a team of experts; two men for the actual shooting; one man to steal a car for the hit, and another to drive the “crash car” after Greenberg was toast (The crash car was always a legitimate registered car, so the driver could claim, after a crash either with a police car in pursuit of the killers, or a civic-minded civilian’s car in on the chase, that he had just lost control of his car).

Siegel summoned Frankie Carbo and Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum from New York City to be the shooters. Whitey Krakow, Siegel’s bother-in-law from New York City, was ordered to steal a car for Carbo and Tannenbaum to drive to and from the scene of the murder. As for the crash car, Siegel decided to use his own Cadillac and do the driving himself. This was against the advice of Lepke, but no one could tell Siegel what to do when he made up his mind.

“We all begged Bugsy to keep out of the shooting,” Lepke’s pal Doc Stracher said years later. “He was too big a man by this time to become personally involved. But Bugsy wouldn’t listen. He said Greenberg was a menace to all of us and if the cops grabbed him he could tell the whole story of our outfit back to the 1920s.”

Surveillance on Greenberg’s residence revealed that Greenberg was little more than a recluse. He never left his residence at 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive in the outskirts of Bel Air, except for his nightly 15-minute drive, each way, to get a newspaper in town. Greenberg told his wife that his little nightly excursion “kept him from blowing his top.”

On Nov. 22, 1939, Thanksgiving Eve, just after dark, Tannenbaum picked up the car Krakow had stolen from a parking lot near Siegel’s office in downtown Los Angeles. Then Tannenbaum drove Siegel and Carbo to Siegel’s home to pick up Siegel’s Cadillac. The two cars, with Carbo in Siegel’s car, drove to a spot a several houses down from the Greenberg residence They watched, as a few hours later Greenberg emerged from his house, looked carefully both ways (missing the two parked cars down the block), got into his car and sped away. Carbo then emerged from Siegel’s car, slithered down the block, and hid in the bushes near Greenberg’s house.

            Like clockwork, just over 30 minutes later, Greenberg turned the corner of Yucca Street and headed toward 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive. Greenberg’s car passed the two parked cars, but both Tannenbaum and Siegel had slid down in their seats so they could not be seen. A spit second later, Tannenbaum flashed his headlights, just for an instant, alerting Carbo, who was waiting in the wings ready to exit stage right into a murder scene. While Greenberg tried to get out of his car, Carbo sped from the shadows and pumped five bullets into Greenberg’s head.

Carbo raced back to the stolen car and jumped in next to Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum sped away; with Siegel in his “crash” Cadillac following close behind. The two cars rushed to a preordained spot where they met with another co-conspirator waiting in a third car. The third chap turned out to be Champ Segal, a small-time criminal who was always willing to help the big boys with whatever. Segal drove Tannenbaum and Carbo to San Francisco where Tannenbaum hopped on a plane back East.

            While Siegel was busy with the Greenberg caper and his many lady friends, Hill and her brother Chick made frequent trips between Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico; shuttling drugs and money back and forth between the three cities. While in Mexico, Hill became friendly with Chato Juarez, the son of the Mexican minister of finance, and Major Luis Amezcua, a noteworthy Mexican politician, who help greased the skids for Hill to safely make her drug ventures in and out of Mexico.

During this same period of time, even though she was still ostensibly Siegel’s girl, Hill bedded down John Roselli, whom the Chicago outfit had sent out west to work under West Coast mob boss Jack Dragna. It was through Roselli that Hill was to relay information about Siegel’s activities in California to Chicago, who in turn relayed this information to Siegel’s partners in New York City. The truth was, neither the Chicago mob, nor the New York mob trusted Siegel, and Hill was their conduit to make sure Siegel was not cutting out his partners, in both cities, of what was rightfully theirs.

On Jan. 20, 1940, Hill married Juarez. Love was the not reason, but rather this marriage allowed Juarez to enter the United States  legally, so that Juarez could consolidate his and Hill’s drug alliances.

While still married to Juarez, Hill played heavy beats with drummer Gene Krupa for a short while, and then hooked back up with Roselli. Jack Dragna, through Roselli, ordered Hill to be the Trojan horse in Bugsy Siegel’s camp. Hill whispered the right things into Siegel’s ears, and soon she and her brother Chick moved into a house with Siegel at 250 Delfern Ave.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Bugsy Siegel

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel is the man most responsible for the re-birth of the city of Las Vegas, as the gambling capitol of the world.

Siegel was born Benjamin Siegelbaum on February 28, 1906, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. As a teenager, he crossed the bridge to Manhattan and started a gang on Lafayette Street, which skirted the boarder of Little Italy, with another thug named Moe Sedway. Their main racket was shaking down pushcart owners for protection money, and if they weren’t paid quickly, they burnt down the poor owner’s pushcart.

Soon Siegel teamed up with Meyer Lansky, the man who would shape his life, and eventually, his death. Together they formed the “Bugs and Meyer Gang,” which started out in auto theft, and ended up handling hit contracts for bootleggers, who were having their shipments hijacked. This tidy little killing business was the forerunner to the infamous Murder Incorporated, which handled hundreds of contract murders during the 1930’s.

In the late 1920’s, Siegel and Lansky hooked up with ambitious Italian mobsters Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia and Tommy Lucchese. Together they formed a National Crime Commission, which controlled all organized crime in America for many years to come. Siegel was the main hit man for the group, and he led the four-man team, who riddled Joe “The Boss” Masseria’s body with bullets in a Coney Island Restaurant. Siegel developed the reputation as a man who not only killed frequently, but enjoy killing, with a glee of a schoolboy on his first date.

In the late 1930’s, The Commission sent Siegel to California to take over their West Coast rackets, including the lucrative racing wire, which ran horse race results to thousands of bookie joints throughout the country. Siegel pushed aside West Coast mob boss Jack Dragna, who was told by Lansky and Luciano, if he didn’t step down and hand the reins over to Siegel, bad things would happen to him quick. Dragna did as he was told.

While in Hollywood, Siegel, who was movie-star-good-looking, was renowned ladies-man, who sometimes bedding down three or four starlets at a time. He hung around with such movie hunks as Clark Cable, Gary Cooper, George Raft and Cary Grant. The girls he bedded included Jean Harlow, Wendy Barry, Marie McDonald, Virginia Hill and Italian Countess Dorothy diFrasso. Even though Siegel was busy with the broads, he always found the time to do a little killing on the side. In 1939, on orders from New York City Jewish mob boss Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Siegel whacked Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, who was singing like a canary to the feds. Siegel was arrested for murder, but after a witness conveniently disappeared, he was acquitted of all charges.

The bad publicity from the Greenberg trial ruined Siegel’s man-about-town reputation in Hollywood, so The Commission sent Siegel to Las Vegas, to scout locations for a hotel/casino they wanted to build. Siegel found the perfect place, and he convinced the boys from New York City, including his pal Lansky, to invest millions in a opulent night club he dubbed The Flamingo. The building of the The Flamingo was a disaster from the start. His insistence on only the best of everything skyrocketed the costs to a staggering $6 million, which annoyed his partners in New York City more than just a little. Plus, there were concerns that maybe Siegel was skimming a little construction money off the top, to fund his actions with the ladies.

Opening night in December, 1946, was an unmitigated disaster. Siegel had moved up the opening date from March 1947, while the hotel was still in the late stages of being built. Since The Flamingo did not show well (the lobby was draped with ugly drop cloths), the Hollywood crowd stayed away, and in a few months, The Flamingo was more than a quarter of a million dollars in the red. Losing money on gambling was unheard of in the mob, so The Commission made a business decision that Siegel’s days on earth had to end. Longtime pal Lansky had no problem signing off on his childhood pal’s death warrant. Business is business and Siegel was bad for business.

On June 20, 1947, in Beverly Hills, Siegel was sitting on the living room couch, in the home of his girlfriend Virginia Hill, reading the Los Angeles Times. Suddenly, two rifle bullets fired from an open window struck Siegel straight in the face. One bullet hit his right cheek and settled in his brain. The second hit him in the nose and pierced his right eye. The eye was found on the floor, fifteen feet from Siegel’s lifeless body.